Modern conveniences

BT OpenReach engineer hooking up our phone line.

BT OpenReach engineer hooking up our phone line.

When we moved onto site to start the foundations, we had no electricity, internet, or running water. We did have mains water to the site, but it required two people to fill up a 5 litre bottle – one to wrestle the 32mm supply pipe into the bottle, and the other to turn on the toby1, which is the main valve controlling the supply of water to our property. All cooking (and heating of water) had to be done over a fire. This was fun at times, but challenging at others (especially when it starts snowing early in the morning and we had not sorted dry tinder the night before). Charging mobile phones and computers or accessing the internet required a 300m walk to Wiston Lodge (who have kindly allowed us to use theirs). This might not sound like a big deal, but when you need to check something quickly or send an email in the middle of building works, it can be quite problematic.

On the second day of works, I had to go to work myself, leaving Susan to manage the project and site, look after Coll, and take care of food preparation, water filling, etc. with all the added complications described above. On top of this, the first of the two days I was at work, she had a migraine. To say this was challenging is an understatement. But she managed the situation admirably, and all the works proceeded smoothly in spite of some issues related to levels and drainage that only arose once works started. In the midst of everything, Susan managed to investigate, coordinate, and agree the necessary adjustments.2

The second week of works went much more smoothly. This was partly because we adjusted things on our end (such as splitting work days and booking S & C in for food at Wiston Lodge the days I was working) and also adjusted ourselves to the situation. But it was in no small part due to our finally being able to use some of the ‘modern’ conveniences that we normally take for granted.

On the Friday (17th), the electrician arrived and hooked up the site cabin to the (Good Energy-supplied) electricity mains that was installed last year and earlier this year. He also installed some sockets for use during construction in the relocated shed. The site cabin now has working sockets, lights, and even electric heaters! Meanwhile, the BT OpenReach engineer arrived in the afternoon and connected our phone line, which currently runs to the site cabin. There’s no internet yet, but it should be live in a few days (in plenty of time for the next phase of works). And on the Saturday (18th) and Monday (20th), I did the plumbing, connecting an outdoor tap on our plot (which we’ll need for the cob works) and the sink tap and drain in the site cabin. Next time we’re down on site, I’ll add another outdoor sink. Small things, but they have made a huge difference to managing things already. And our week without has certainly made us much more appreciative of electricity and running water.

If we were doing this again, we would have spent more time on site before the build started, making sure everything was set up properly. The water, electricity, and comms should all have been hooked up before the start of the build. Thankfully we did have the foresight to ensure our composting toilet was in place before the start of works. But the rest should have been there too. Part of what made the first week so difficult was dealing with all the issues at once. Running the site and project, as well as looking after Coll, would have been manageable for Susan if food and drink preparation hadn’t been so difficult/time-intensive. And dealing with the cooking and tea-making over a fire with no running water would have been manageable if a big building project wasn’t kicking off at the same time. Lesson learned.


  1. Called a mains stopcock outside of Scotland – don’t ask me where ‘toby’ came from. 

  2. Susan will write about the drainage issue on another date.